As Women’s History Month continues, "Woman Lomographer On the Rise" is a celebration of the women in our Community who, through their creativity and uniqueness, inspire us every day to follow our own paths and passions. Get to know the lovely Silvia Laddaga a.k.a. laddy_s with her textured and detailed work on with an expired Lomography Color Negative 400 120.
Hi Silvia, can you introduce yourself to our online magazine readers?
Hi! First of all, it's a pleasure for me to be here and tell you about myself. I live in the hinterland south of Milan, I'm 34 years old and I'm a psychologist almost at the end of my specialization in Gestalt-oriented psychotherapy; in addition to my work in the studio, I deal with disabilities within various services in the Milan area and I always have a thousand ideas and projects in my drawer.
I have been a Red Cross volunteer for many years. Well, I must say that I really have many interests, basically I am a person whose life is fed by a creative lymph that must always be in circulation: when I can not express my creative potential I suffer terribly! I let myself be intrigued by the richness of the world around me and enjoy catching the aesthetic nuance that lurks even in the most unsuspected and small things. I love everything that is the image and graphic representation: traditional and digital illustration, photography of course, but also design and architecture. As soon as I can, I do some DIY projects; those who know me know how excited I get for those activities, whether it's crocheting, building a piece of furniture, making a piece of jewelry, and so on. I especially love the concept of customization, customizing things, giving old and discarded objects a new shape, or even a new life. Most of the moments of my day have a musical background: since I was a child I have always breathed music and boy, how much I would love to resume playing the drums! I have a very deep love for animals and nature in all its manifestations...the connection I feel is often a source of inspiration for me and my work.
Tell us about your photography background. When did you start photographing?
The world of images, as I mentioned, has always been fascinating and familiar to me. I've been drawing since I was a child as it was my favorite form of expression, I could get lost in it for hours... at a restaurant, all I needed was a ballpoint pen and a paper napkin and I was good for the whole evening. Drawing was definitely an activity that allowed me to bring out and visually represent, my inner world, my imagination and my emotions; as I grew up, photography joined drawing in this function.
I consider myself lucky to be a native analogue: my first photographic experiences date back to the years of school trips and the first holidays with friends and there the film was still the protagonist.
Then there was the transition to digital, with its pros and cons. I remember that it was during a vacation in Fuerteventura, when I was 20 years old, that my passion for photography really blossomed...although armed with a simple point and shoot, I made that switch from photography as an auxiliary tool to photography as an expressive activity that already has a well-defined purpose in itself.
So then I bought a Canon EOS 440D Digital and attended a short course to acquire the technical rudiments of the art of photography. Having fun with post-production I slowly discovered the styles that interested me the most and my attention was soon focused on vintage aesthetics that was spreading a bit 'in all creative and cultural areas. I began to feel an increasingly strong attraction for the world of films, shutters and mechanics, which attracted me not only from an aesthetic point of view, but for a series of peculiarities and implications of the analogue mode that gradually became clearer and clearer to me and that I found in great harmony with my way of being. So, starting from the Lomo effect name with which many Photoshop's filters had, I ended up discovering the reality of Lomography, and from there my rediscovery of the analogue world took off. I cannot count how many times in that period I visited the Lomography Gallery Store in Milan in Via Mercato! What a pity it closed down.
In short, it was clear that analogue was the right style for me. In contrast to a world dominated by the laws of haste and the temporary, I found the analogue has a whole series of features that connect deeply with important issues for the individual and the definition of the self and its narrative: enhancement of the experiential dimension, concreteness, tangibility, limitation, no turning back once a photo have been taken, vintage aesthetics, are specifically the analogue peculiarities that I identified as significant with respect to a photographic experience that also becomes a path of self-reflection and self-definition, in an era where extreme fluidity makes us feel thirsty for things perhaps imperfect but throbbing, perhaps simpler but bearers of a history and values. Over time, these issues became so important to me that I dedicated theoretical reflection and experimental research to them, the subject of my master's thesis, entitled "Analogue and digital: a psychological exploration of photographic experience as a support for the identity project". It is fantastic how photography can be integrated into my profession, in a vortex of theoretical and practical implications that open many new horizons.
Do you remember when you took your first photograph?
Thank you for this question: it gave me the opportunity to browse through albums and rediscover old shots that I barely remembered, slipping in a moment into distant memories, and also making me laugh...after all, the beauty of photography, especially printed, is also this, right?
I don't have a specific shot that I identify as the first of my life, although I bet that in the years when I was still wearing pigtails and lace stockings I would have taken my uncle's Polaroid camera during Christmas lunch and felt the thrill of pressing the button... although I can say that there is a group of photos that I could consider my first significant photographic experience. Photographs that I took during the cultural exchange trip to Scotland during fifth grade. These shots are significant to me in my photographic journey because they are the first rolls of film that I handled and the first time I was using the camera in a more conscious and oriented way, geared towards documenting the experience I was having, the places I was exploring, what struck my attention and the moments that I felt were important to capture in memory, and that I had a desire to be able to share with others, in the future.
It was exciting to see these photos again, and I have to say that I was impressed by the composition and choices of some images, while for others, well, I had a lot of fun, like scrolling through five photos that had the exact the same subjects: unaware goats grazing. In short, wonder and infinite tenderness. The same feeling I had by observing the photos taken by my parents at the departure at the airport and seeing me there, super tall for my age, with my backpack, the yellow bandana recognition and the camera around my neck.
For the record, the point and shoot camera that accompanied me on all the following adventures until the digital break-in, was a Nikon AF230, and of course, I still have it.
What is your favorite film camera?
Over time I have accumulated many analogue cameras, the thing I like most is that the vast majority of them have an emotional value: from those that belonged to my grandfather, to those donated by a dear friend, from those gifted during important anniversaries to those bought with an important person in an apparently ordinary moment that remains etched in the memory (and maybe even in some shots). I associate others to travels or particular moments in which I used them for the first time, others are still waiting to be tested, maybe waiting to receive some small modification that makes them usable (I'm thinking for example about the Polaroid Land Camera Colorpack 88 or to a Ferrania Ibis34 127 mm).
And indeed, analogue photography in general, I believe has a lot to do with an emotional connotation and a depth that goes beyond the mere act of producing images.
If I had to pick one though, I would say the Canon AT-1. It is the camera that my father always used and with which most of the photos of our family albums were taken and I remember it as almost an institution.
After getting reacquainted with film photography through the Diana camera and other simple cameras, I remember my dad retrieving the Canon AT-1 from the cabinet where it had been resting since the advent of digital, and handing it to me, with the hope that I could use it to experiment and have fun. Wow, now it was mine...how exciting. After a while I became familiar with this camera, and today, thanks also to a slight expansion of my lens range, it is the one I use most often, as it gives me a good mix between image quality, versatility and comfort, for what are my amateur needs, of course.
What gear do you always take with you on your travels?
In addition to my analogue cameras, I also use digital technology: I own a Sony Alpha 7 II, but I also use my cell phone a lot in my daily life...I don't disdain anything! Every tool is good to capture what strikes me and create the image that comes to mind.
Sometimes I make sure I bring both digital and analogue cameras. Other times I focus on analogue, so I often bring the Canon AT-1 and a small camera, which can be the Diana Baby or even the Mini. Other times, apart from the Canon, I carry with me a camera to test, for example a newly acquired one, or a camera with a different film format. Generally speaking, when I travel I like to have more expressive possibilities: on the one hand I have the Canon that gives me more security while the rest of the equipment is more intended to experiment and play. Sometimes, however, I'm torn with the desire to travel light in a real and metaphorical sense, and to bring with me the essentials, in order to have a limited number of shots that allow me to weight and value them differently, which is precisely one of the significant aspects of the analogue approach for me.
Who are the artists you follow and from whom-what do you draw inspiration for your photos?
I must admit that I don't have many references talking about big names, I often find inspiration by poking around in the profiles of unknown people or even in areas not strictly related to photography. However, an important name that inspires and fascinates me to death is Luigi Ghirri. Those particular colors, the composition of the image and the play of geometry...His shots for me are cloaked in an almost metaphysical allure, transporting in rarefied atmospheres, often melancholy, leaving a sort of desolation snake under the skin, which reminds me of De Chirico and Hopper, two painters I like very much and whose style I feel that somehow has an influence on my photographic taste.
For some time now, in fact, I have found that I really like to play with the elements of the environment, combining colors and geometries to compose photographs with a graphic effect, almost as if I were painting with a camera. With respect to this, I also found inspiration in one of the various groups of analogue photography that I follow on Facebook, it's called "New Topographics - Film Photographers", there you can find shots that I find really interesting...check it out.
I haven't experimented much with portraits yet, but there are two photographers, discovered by chance during my wanderings on the web, who work with film and whose style attracts me a lot. The first is Ani Buero: I find her shots simply fantastic, both for the colors and for the grain or the matte patina that often appear, both for the compositional ideas and the subjects chosen. The second one is called Magdalena Szczoczarz and I particularly like the dark and mysterious atmospheres of her photos and the role that the natural elements have in them.
Finally, a special mention goes to the book published by Taschen "Midcentury Memories: the Anonymous Project", which I recently gave to myself as a present. It is a collection of anonymous slides, mysterious and fascinating slices of existence, portraying moments of life of unknown people, who half a century ago have unconsciously left their mark in the wake of history...I find that this book gives an opportunity to reflect on photography and its use, even from a more philosophical and anthropological point of view, without the need for a word, simply through the images that collects...I confess, browsing through it I was also a little moved.
For this series, you used an expired Lomography Color Negative 400 ISO film. Which camera did you use? And why the choice to use an expired film?
The choice of this film was partly intentional and partly accidental. In fact, on the one hand, in the years when I had just discovered Lomography, I bought a lot of films, especially 120 mm since I was shooting mainly with Diana; since I tend to use for certain periods the same format, after I bought them I stared using more 35 mm and so, several 120 films remained for a long time parked in the drawer waiting for their moment of glory.
On the other hand, I'm totally fascinated by the unexpected colors and dusty, dreamlike atmospheres that expired film often gives to the images impressed on it (see my album "granny roll" in which I used an Agfa film bought at a flea market that expired in '83!). So once I had taken stock of the remaining rolls of film, I decided to leave them there to age a little longer, like wines in a cellar waiting to be enjoyed. And by the way, the great thing is that after a while I forget about the films I have and when I go to look in the box it's a surprise every time.
Regarding the camera, I used a Rolleiflex Wide-Angle, which my parents gave me as a present when I got my master's degree. It has enormous sentimental value to me. It's a fascinating piece, beautifully mechanical, massive, complex, and not exactly intuitive to use...if you look at my LomoHome profile picture, it's exactly the one I'm fiddling with! I have an almost reverential fear of this rare machine, so even though I've owned it for a long time I've not yet experienced it much, but I plan to explore it more.
What was your reaction when you saw the results of this expired film?
I really didn't expect it, but on the other hand, unpredictability is also a side of the genuine soul of analogue. Initially I was a bit worried because I was afraid that it was due to a malfunction of the camera, but although I have not yet fully understood what this result is due to (any suggestion is very welcome!), I think I can exclude that it can be attributed to the camera. At first I didn't understand the aesthetic potential of these images: the shots of that day at the beach were ruined and so they remained archived for some time... Until one fine day I picked them up again and I saw them with different eyes. I was very fascinated: they were no longer photographs ruined by film codes, but images with a composite nature, a mixture of photography, symbols and graphic elements, a composition in which the whole that emerged was more than the sum of its parts.
When do you think a technical error turns into a masterpiece?
Very interesting question...In my opinion several factors come into play. Certainly, chance plays its part: for example, when there is light infiltration, very powerful visual results can occur, even if totally accidental. In general, however, I think it is the eye of the beholder that is ready or not to grasp the aesthetic potential of that image at that moment, a bit like what happened to me with the "numbers" series. Sometimes the error is due to the equipments, other times it is not really an error, but simply a choice, related to different priorities of the person taking the picture: it happened to me to find evocative and wonderful photographs out of focus... technically it’s it an error? Yes, but the person who took the picture made that choice to express a particular idea or emotional state. Or... it's just a fluke, because in any case, it's us, the observers, who add parts of ourselves and our experiences into that image, seeing something else and richer that makes our inner chords vibrate, making us call it a masterpiece.
Where will you take your favorite camera as soon as it's safe to travel again?
Ah what a great question, in a particular moment like this any place even around the corner acquires the charm of an exotic destination! We all been on standby for months because of COVID-19 and I'm planning a long weekend in the Herculaneum-Pompei area, and certainly my Canon will be coming with me. But as soon as we can resume traveling around the globe, my great desire is to take a trip to California, which has always fascinated me, to visit a dear friend of mine who moved there just before the pandemic... it will be hard to choose the photographic equipment to bring with me! Let's say that I'll use this time of forced waiting to consider, taste, choose and dream.
Follow Silvia on her LomoHome.